There will be no chow at chow time.
Out of respect for Western dining mores, man's best friend will not be offered at Olympic-connected restaurants, and Chinese officials are trying strongly to convince other eateries to follow suit.
If a patron requests "fragrant meat," as the Chinese refer to dog meat (that is, meat from dogs, not meat for dogs), the server is supposed to politely but firmly recommend another dish. ("Anyone for spaghetti Bolognese with a tossed "Bijon" frisee and washed down with cold lassi?")
Of course, it's not the first time dogs, the Olympics and exotic eating traditions have collided.
In 1988, for the Seoul Olympics, the South Korean government similarly asked restaurants to put the kibosh on canine cookery. Nevertheless, the subject was the source of much ribbing on Western broadcasts of the games, which many Koreans took as a slight against the entire nation. Twelve years later, when South Korea hosted the World Cup, the controversy erupted all over again.
In Vietnam and several other Asian and Pacific Rim countries, dog is something you might find on some tables (though it's worth noting that eating dog has become noticeably less popular in many places, like China and Korea ). And even in the West, it's not by any means unknown: A minor furor supposedly was caused when a newspaper reported about the popularity of dog jerky in certain remote Swiss cantons (I'm suspicious of the single-source nature of these Internet accounts, though). And dog-eating is considered a suitable subject for a laugh right here in the U.S., with joke Web sites dedicated to the subject. Please note that I said "joke," not "funny."
The argument could be made that Westerners' disgust at ancient Eastern customs like dog-eating is culturally close-minded, hypocritical and another example of cute-animal syndrome, where only baby seals and the like get wide attention. Or you could say that the practice of raising dogs purely for their meat is inherently cruel, a line of thinking that then begs to be carried over to the meat industry as a whole.
What do you all think? Would you eat a collie kebab if you were offered one?Michael Y. Park is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. He studied medieval history as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, and journalism as a graduate student at New York University. His stories have appeared in publications including The New York Times, the New York Post, and the Toronto Globe and Mail.
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